“When I was in high school, Columbine occurred,” Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams said at a meeting Wednesday.
No further introduction was necessary to explain that school safety remains as pressing a concern today as it was 20 years ago.
The most recent school shooting in Florida, the deadliest in the nation in five years, prompted the Hall County School Board on Monday to hold a live webcast presentation on security measures taken to protect local students.
Williams, in a joint meeting with his own board and members of the city council, said now was the time for Gainesville to share more about what it is doing to continually improve safety in all its schools.
For example, Williams said school administrators would work with local law enforcement to conduct a risk assessment of its operations and facilities.
And an additional school resource officer, approved by city officials prior to the shooting, will soon be on duty.
“Kids cannot learn when they can’t come to school and feel safe,” Williams said.
Police Chief Carol Martin told school and city officials that more active-shooter drills will be conducted with students and teachers, while officers will continue training at empty schools in the summer months.
The Gainesville Police Department began working in schools in 1980s. But new programs, such as “Pupils and Police,” work to bring students and officers together in more productive ways, Martin said.
“They are much more than just a security guard,” Martin said of SROs, adding that they develop relationships and trust with students so lines of communication are open about potential threats.
Adrian Niles, chief operations officer for Gainesville schools, said facilities are always being upgraded to ensure secure access to schools.
For example, schools are designed to direct visitors to administrative offices prior to gaining clearance to other school grounds.
And officials said they are considering whether to require additional card readers for staff and faculty to access sensitive areas.
Security cameras on school buses, meanwhile, help monitor for the possibility of remotely occurring incidents that involve students.
“It’s something we’ve got to do to keep our children safe,” Mayor Danny Dunagan said.